Penn State Women's Basketball: Lady Lions Cruise Toward March in Front of Pink Crowd
A charmed regular season, one not seen since the Rene Portland era, ended Sunday afternoon in front of a crowd doused in pink.
There has been much to celebrate this year with the Lady Lions, who clinched an outright regular season Big Ten championship after a 74-51 victory against Minnesota and will have the top seed and a first-round bye in the conference tournament, which starts Thursday in Indianapolis.
Penn State will face the winner of Minnesota and Wisconsin at 6 Friday night.
But on this day, it was more than just basketball. Penn State held its annual Pink Zone game in front of a crowd of 13,849 fans at the Bryce Jordan Center — the fourth-largest crowd in Lady Lion history — an event that raises money to fight breast cancer.
The preliminary fundraising total for this year is $159,795.93, Penn State announced. That number does not include donations from single-game tickets sales, T-shirt sales or the CharityBuzz.com online auction.
At halftime, 505 breast cancer survivors were honored and serenaded by Grammy Award-winning artist Regina Belle, and during a timeout in the second half, football coach Bill O’Brien addressed the crowd on why this event is so meaningful to him.
His mother, Anne, is a two-time breast cancer fighter, he said.
“When the ladies walked out on the court, it brought back a lot of memories,” O’Brien said. “She’s 80 years old today on vacation down in Florida and doing great.”
The No. 11 Lady Lions (23-5, 13-3 Big Ten) are doing great these days, too. They clinched their first conference regular season title since 2003-04 (when Portland was coach) with an 84-66 victory against Ohio State last week.
And on Sunday, they extended their season-long winning streak to seven games heading into postseason play.
Penn State went on a 13-0 run over a 7.5-minute stretch mid-way through the first half to push the margin to 22 and drive it toward a 39-17 lead at the half.
Sophomore guard Maggie Lucas led all scorers with 24 points, and senior Zhaque Gray scored 18 points in her final home game.
These are good times for women’s basketball coach Coquese Washington and her program. But now it’s on to March, and all the thrills and grief that time of year can bring.
A four-month journey that started with the promise of a Big Ten championship continues. Penn State, having delivered up to this point, is hoping for more.